Strasbourg shooting suspect 'had lengthy criminal record and was deported last year', police confirm
Police in France have officially named a 29-year-old man suspected of killing three people in a shooting near a Christmas market in Strasbourg.
Officials said French man Cherif Chekatt has a lengthy criminal record including several serious cases of robbery.
Chekatt, who is known to French authorities as a radicalised Islamist, had been imprisoned in Germany in 2016 and 2017 on theft charges, and was deported to France in 2017, a spokeswoman for Germany's BKA criminal police said.
The official said his apartment was searched by police on Tuesday morning – hours before the shooting – in an investigation over an attempted murder but he was not at home.
Chekatt was on the run on Wednesday after the shooting which also wounded at least 13.
Authorities have launched a terror investigation, with interior minister Christophe Castaner saying 350 officers are hunting for the gunman who was known to security services.
Mr Castaner said the gunman, from the city in eastern France, exchanged fire with law enforcement as he 'sowed terror'.
The French government has increased its security alert system Vigipirate to its highest level.
Mr Castaner said: 'Three hundred and fifty police and gendarmes are currently on the ground to apprehend the suspect, supported by two helicopters, the RAID (French anti-terror police), the BRI (anti-gang brigade) and the Sentinel force.
'The government has decided to move the security level to 'Emergency Attack' with stricter controls at the borders, and the implementation of reinforced controls on all the Christmas markets that are taking place in France to avoid the risk of copycat attacks.'
The suspect was shot and injured by soldiers guarding the Christmas market but he escaped in a taxi, BFM TV said.
He was said to have entered central Strasbourg via the Corbeau bridge to the south of the city centre, before heading to Rue des Orfevres, a popular shopping street close to the cathedral, where he opened fire at around 8pm local time (7pm GMT).
In the aftermath, residents were urged to stay indoors and the nearby European Parliament was placed on lockdown.
Antonio Tajani, the president of the parliament, said: 'This parliament will not be intimidated by terrorist or criminal attacks. Let us move on. We will continue to work and react strengthened by freedom and democracy against terrorist violence.'
Fans attending a basketball game were also kept behind and began to sing the French national anthem in 'homage to the victims'.
The Christmas market was closed on Wednesday and flags lowered to half-mast.
France has been hit by several extremist attacks in recent years, including the 2015 Paris shootings which left 130 people dead and wounded hundreds more.
In 2016 a truck was driven into Bastille Day crowds in Nice, killing 86 people and leaving hundreds injured.
What we know about the Strasbourg shooting suspect
- Cherif Chekatt was born in Strasbourg in February 1989.
- Chekatt was subject of a 'fiche S', literally an S card, which is used by police to flag someone who is considered a threat to national security. Although not grounds for arrest, a fiche S (which stands for state security) allows surveillance. Others who have been flagged under the system include Amedy Coulibaly who killed four hostages at a siege in a Kosher supermarket in 2015, days after the Charlie Hebdo shooting.
- Interior minister Christophe Castaner said the suspect was known to police services and had served time in prison in France and Germany for common law offences.
- BFMTV said Chekatt was known to be part of radicalised networks in Strasbourg and was a 'repeat offender' and a 'delinquent'.
- His home was subject of a search on Tuesday morning as part of investigations into a robbery. He was not in but grenades were found.
- This article first appeared on Yahoo